"When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon."
It's widely argued among mystery readers that the sentence above, from James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss, is among the greatest openers in the genre. In fact, in his recent Ransom Notes Blog post, Dennis Lehane called it "the best first line in American crime fiction".
First lines, like first dates quickly make or break an author's relationship with their potential reader.
Take the case of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's infamous opening sentence, "It was a dark and stormy night..." which is now so synonymous with bad writing that his name is attached to an annual contest that celebrates lackluster prose. Can anyone name the book that line came from? I certainly can't. Nor can I say whether Bulwer-Lytton wrote anything else.
However there's nothing quite like when an author really nails that first line. Case in point; Roger Smith's upcoming thriller, Wake Up Dead.*
"The night they were hijacked, Roxy Palmer and her husband, Joe, ate dinner with an African cannibal and his Ukrainian whore."
If that doesn't keep you reading, you may in fact be dead and while I won't be bringing Mr. Smith home to meet mom, with an opener like that he's certainly earned the right to a nightcap!
What are some of your favorite first lines?
* Smith's debut Mixed Blood should not be missed either!
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